Coronavirus: Germany improves ventilation to chase away Covid

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Media caption,
The BBC's Jenny Hill explains how Germans are giving their love of fresh air a technical boost

The German government is investing €500m (£452m; $488m) in improving ventilation systems in public buildings to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The grants will go to improve the air circulation in public offices, museums, theatres, universities and schools. Private firms are not yet eligible.

Viruses spread on tiny droplets called aerosols, exhaled by infected people - especially when they sneeze or cough.

Studies suggest they can remain in a room's air for at least eight minutes.

Colder weather puts more people at risk because they spend more time indoors.

The main aim is to upgrade existing air conditioning systems, rather than install new ones, which costs more.

Each upgrade is eligible for a maximum of €100,000. Funding is also available for CO2 sensors which indicate when the air in a room is unhealthily stale. The grants will be allocated from Tuesday.

The government also wants schools lacking central air conditioning systems to at least get mobile air purifiers. But much will also depend on how easily rooms can be ventilated simply by opening the windows.

The Bavarian broadcaster BR24 reports that the mobile ventilators, which filter out tiny particles and cost from €2,000 each, can effectively purify a room within minutes.

But German experts say apparatus that relies on UV-light, ionisation or ozone can be ineffective against coronavirus, and in some cases worsen the air quality.

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According to Germany's latest official figures, 4,325 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, but Monday's figure is usually lower as fewer cases are reported at the weekend. The reported German death toll is 9,789.

The infection rate has risen across Germany in recent weeks, but the surge is more marked in some neighbouring countries, notably the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.

Germans love open windows more than ever

Many Germans are a bit bemused that their relationship with fresh air has provoked such curiosity in Britain of late. Why, after all, wouldn't you fling your windows wide open each morning to create a nice healthy draught?

Fresh air has, for a while now, been seen as a key to dealing with coronavirus too. L for Luft (air) was recently added to A for Abstand (distance), H for Hygiene and A for Alltagsmaske (mask) - the official government directives on how to live in corona times.

So choirs rehearse in rooms open to the elements. Train windows are cranked open. Diners are still being served outdoors at many establishments, prompting a national ethical debate over patio heaters.

But, as the air turns sharper and colder, it is education ministers who are feeling the chill. It has been mooted - not always in jest - that children should attend lessons wrapped in coats, gloves, hats and perhaps a duvet, prompting fury among teachers.

And many German classrooms, in poor repair after prolonged underinvestment, simply do not have windows that open. German engineers are on the case though. I recently visited a company which usually manufactures heating and ventilation systems. It has now created an air filtration system designed with windowless classrooms in mind.

There are widespread fears that the new coronavirus wave will only intensify as the weather gets colder in Europe and more people share confined spaces. Windows will stay shut longer to keep out cold draughts.

Virus particles also survive longer when they are not exposed to direct heat and sunlight. The cool air in abattoirs is reckoned to have contributed to several Covid-19 outbreaks in Germany in recent months.

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Watch how germs spread and how you can prevent it

The tiny droplets that carry the virus can not only remain suspended in the air for more than eight minutes, they can also travel several metres.

The German government's advice is to open windows for at least five minutes every hour, for example during class changeovers in schools.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive also recommends fans to dissipate pockets of stale air in rooms and using a fresh air supply, instead of just recirculating air through the air conditioning system.

data in detail

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*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 862,472 262.8 70,216,915
Brazil 623,370 295.4 24,054,405
India 489,848 35.8 39,543,328
Russia 320,178 221.8 10,988,027
Mexico 303,183 237.6 4,667,829
Peru 204,323 628.5 2,946,151
UK 153,862 230.2 15,859,288
Indonesia 144,220 53.3 4,286,378
Italy 143,523 238.0 9,923,678
Colombia 132,240 262.7 5,740,179
Iran 132,230 159.5 6,250,490
France 128,629 191.8 14,172,384
Argentina 119,168 265.2 7,862,536
Germany 116,751 140.4 8,773,032
Ukraine 105,871 238.5 4,055,643
Poland 103,846 273.5 4,547,315
South Africa 94,177 160.8 3,581,359
Spain 91,741 194.9 8,975,458
Turkey 85,969 103.0 10,947,129
Romania 59,547 307.6 2,017,129
Philippines 53,472 49.5 3,417,216
Hungary 40,944 419.1 1,441,385
Chile 39,512 208.5 1,965,393
Czech Republic 37,050 347.2 2,763,800
Vietnam 36,719 38.1 2,141,422
Ecuador 34,279 197.3 658,045
Bulgaria 32,664 468.2 880,228
Canada 32,294 85.9 2,885,629
Malaysia 31,892 99.8 2,832,945
Pakistan 29,105 13.4 1,374,800
Belgium 28,780 250.6 2,697,239
Bangladesh 28,223 17.3 1,685,136
Tunisia 25,954 221.9 846,761
Iraq 24,287 61.8 2,154,237
Greece 22,635 211.2 1,793,311
Egypt 22,368 22.3 410,098
Thailand 22,045 31.7 2,384,639
Netherlands 21,211 122.4 3,889,669
Bolivia 20,630 179.2 813,609
Portugal 19,569 190.6 2,221,825
Myanmar 19,310 35.7 534,071
Japan 18,507 14.7 2,175,714
Kazakhstan 18,357 99.2 1,243,220
Slovakia 17,643 323.5 1,462,998
Paraguay 16,887 239.7 516,555
Guatemala 16,268 98.0 669,830
Sweden 15,674 152.4 1,784,005
Sri Lanka 15,299 70.2 601,886
Morocco 15,132 41.5 1,098,413
Georgia 14,732 396.0 1,059,392
Austria 13,991 157.6 1,600,041
Bosnia and Herzegovina 13,984 423.6 329,569
Croatia 13,407 329.6 877,060
Serbia 13,271 191.1 1,544,900
Jordan 13,073 129.4 1,141,048
Switzerland 12,588 146.8 1,879,319
Nepal 11,655 40.7 910,394
Moldova 10,522 395.9 409,397
Honduras 10,468 107.4 387,515
Lebanon 9,487 138.4 865,229
Saudi Arabia 8,922 26.0 657,192
Azerbaijan 8,610 85.9 633,731
Israel 8,447 93.3 2,369,976
Cuba 8,363 73.8 1,022,112
North Macedonia 8,218 394.4 256,281
Armenia 8,028 271.4 352,399
Lithuania 7,762 278.5 612,500
Panama 7,598 178.9 644,683
Costa Rica 7,451 147.6 643,496
Afghanistan 7,393 19.4 159,896
Ethiopia 7,244 6.5 462,107
South Korea 6,565 12.7 741,413
Algeria 6,495 15.1 236,670
Uruguay 6,308 182.2 588,995
Ireland 6,087 123.2 1,145,968
Libya 5,936 87.6 407,758
Belarus 5,933 62.7 726,860
Slovenia 5,786 277.1 611,737
Kenya 5,554 10.6 320,229
Venezuela 5,405 19.0 469,566
Zimbabwe 5,294 36.1 228,254
Palestinian Territories 5,042 107.6 480,583
China 4,849 0.3 118,774
Latvia 4,795 250.7 335,541
Dominican Republic 4,287 39.9 539,580
Oman 4,129 83.0 324,085
Namibia 3,914 156.9 155,255
Zambia 3,895 21.8 301,630
El Salvador 3,855 59.7 127,012
Denmark 3,608 62.0 1,397,833
Uganda 3,474 7.8 160,352
Sudan 3,393 7.9 53,959
Albania 3,305 115.8 248,070
Trinidad and Tobago 3,302 236.7 106,417
Australia 3,161 12.5 2,239,310
Nigeria 3,124 1.6 252,187
Cambodia 3,015 18.3 121,066
Kosovo 2,998 167.1 181,446
Syria 2,968 17.4 50,985
Kyrgyzstan 2,851 44.2 195,820
Jamaica 2,594 88.0 119,565
Botswana 2,544 110.4 243,946
Malawi 2,523 13.5 83,823
Montenegro 2,513 403.9 213,140
Kuwait 2,486 59.1 497,454
United Arab Emirates 2,214 22.7 825,699
Mozambique 2,157 7.1 222,596
Mongolia 2,094 64.9 428,350
Estonia 2,008 151.4 296,466
Yemen 1,995 6.8 10,585
Senegal 1,925 11.8 84,295
Angola 1,888 5.9 96,582
Cameroon 1,867 7.2 114,113
Finland 1,724 31.2 371,135
Uzbekistan 1,542 4.6 215,063
Rwanda 1,432 11.3 128,009
Norway 1,414 26.4 622,596
Bahrain 1,399 85.2 330,621
Eswatini 1,369 119.2 68,081
Ghana 1,367 4.5 155,496
Somalia 1,335 8.6 24,322
DR Congo 1,278 1.5 84,283
Suriname 1,239 213.1 70,074
Madagascar 1,223 4.5 57,375
Guyana 1,134 144.9 57,227
Luxembourg 943 152.1 137,570
Mauritania 927 20.5 57,384
Taiwan 851 3.6 18,325
Singapore 848 14.9 313,772
Guadeloupe 835 208.7 73,660
Martinique 816 217.3 73,355
Haiti 783 7.0 28,471
Ivory Coast 779 3.0 80,176
Fiji 768 86.3 60,931
Tanzania 753 1.3 32,393
Bahamas 729 187.2 32,068
Cyprus 712 59.4 239,073
Mali 705 3.6 29,677
Lesotho 690 32.5 32,049
French Polynesia 636 227.7 47,470
Qatar 634 22.4 323,345
Belize 616 157.8 45,753
Papua New Guinea 596 6.8 36,446
Malta 532 105.8 65,869
Laos 526 7.3 129,953
Réunion 462 52.0 133,617
Guinea 414 3.2 35,857
Cape Verde 389 70.7 55,306
Congo 371 6.9 23,485
French Guiana 357 122.8 72,188
Burkina Faso 353 1.7 20,514
Gambia 347 14.8 11,572
Saint Lucia 316 172.9 19,680
Gabon 300 13.8 45,909
Niger 295 1.3 8,542
Liberia 288 5.8 7,208
New Caledonia 282 98.0 16,000
Barbados 275 95.8 39,212
Maldives 270 50.9 117,461
Togo 266 3.3 36,313
Mauritius 240 19.0 25,159
Nicaragua 219 3.3 17,604
Curaçao 216 137.1 36,013
Grenada 205 183.0 11,344
Aruba 191 179.7 32,322
Djibouti 189 19.4 15,311
Mayotte 187 70.3 35,691
Chad 185 1.2 6,889
Equatorial Guinea 179 13.2 15,690
Benin 163 1.4 26,309
Comoros 159 18.7 7,812
Guinea-Bissau 154 8.0 7,284
Andorra 144 186.7 33,025
Seychelles 143 146.5 34,367
South Sudan 137 1.2 16,673
Channel Islands 126 73.1 38,232
Tajikistan 125 1.3 17,493
Sierra Leone 125 1.6 7,590
Timor-Leste 122 9.4 19,868
Antigua and Barbuda 122 125.6 5,931
Bermuda 112 175.2 9,766
Central African Republic 109 2.3 13,611
San Marino 107 316.0 11,466
Gibraltar 100 296.7 11,835
Brunei 98 22.6 16,148
Eritrea 93 2.7 9,297
St Vincent and the Grenadines 90 81.4 6,615
Sint Maarten 78 191.5 9,076
Liechtenstein 73 192.0 7,838
Isle of Man 70 82.8 20,425
Sao Tome and Principe 69 32.1 5,832
Saint Martin 60 157.9 9,143
New Zealand 52 1.1 15,625
Dominica 49 68.2 8,517
British Virgin Islands 47 156.5 5,602
Monaco 45 115.5 7,583
Iceland 44 12.2 54,579
Burundi 38 0.3 36,868
Turks and Caicos Islands 34 89.0 5,524
Saint Kitts and Nevis 28 53.0 5,254
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba 27 103.9 6,419
Faroe Islands 17 34.9 14,340
Cayman Islands 15 23.1 13,734
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Anguilla 7 47.1 2,187
Wallis and Futuna Islands 7 61.2 454
Saint Barthelemy 6 60.9 3,282
Greenland 4 7.1 9,485
Bhutan 3 0.4 3,649
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Montserrat 1 20.0 155
Vanuatu 1 0.3 7
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 696
Palau 0 0.0 502
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 289
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 86
Vatican 0 0.0 29
Samoa 0 0.0 18
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 7
Saint Helena 0 0.0 4
Kiribati 0 0.0 2
Cook Islands 0 0.0 2
Tonga 0 0.0 1
Micronesia 0 0.0 1

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This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University and national public health agencies

Figures last updated: 24 January 2022, 11:14 GMT

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